A couple of years ago I was asked to be a mentor teacher to a new teacher. We sat in on what seemed endless meetings for first year teachers. Frank Forsthoefel told a story about his young daughter. His daughter's teacher called home to talk to her...before the first day of school. He mentioned the positive impact it had on both him and his daughter. A light turned on. What would happen if I called home to everyone of my students BEFORE the first day of school?
Chad Husting's blog
I saw the process of students thinking like scientists but what I struggled with, and I imagine many others do as well, is how students work together in groups. Yes...I know it is important but is this a big battle that I want to fight? I was fortunate to meet several people who have developed some wonderful “tricks of the trade” to help students work as “teams”.
POGIL stands for "Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning". Over the years I have accidentally and somewhat intentionally been using POGIL activities. Students must work in teams, examine models and answer questions that become more complex based on the models and students hopefully build knowledge. I have had my ups and downs. It has been messy. Bottom line...here is what almost always happens...I eavesdrop on students talking like scientists. It is student centered and the comments would never come from students if I sat back and lectured. Somehow, I wound up at this conference for "advanced" POGIL practitioners. I am trying to keep it a secret that I have never really been advanced at anything and am hoping that by the time anyone figures this out the conference will be over.
I tend to enjoy acid base titrations for several reasons. First, students get to work with burettes, acids, bases and they see a nice "color change" when they reach an endpoint. Many times, students who tend to struggle with pen and paper testing excel at the "hands-on" approach. Titrations also dovetail well with stoichiometry which provides a nice review of information closer to the end of the year.
I really enjoy doing reaction rate lab with my students. I often change them up so that I use a different version or tweak an old version. This can lead to a variety of outcomes. Sometimes trying something new or tweaking something that went well before can go wrong.
The answer may be in the anecdotal evidence. The conversations between students were mini debates. “Are you sure this is correct?” “How do you know?” “What about this other data?” “Should we label that number?” “What about the energy of the particles during a phase change?” And on, and on, and on….They were having discussions between themselves that I would not have been able to elicit as a teacher.
My students and I tend to have good experiences with a hydrate inquiry lab that I have "tweaked" (see the previous blog). Essentially, my students have some practice with hydrates in the lab and then they are provided an unknown hydrate. They must separate off the water by heating and calculate the mass of the anhydrous salt and container before they come up and put it on the scale. As an added twist, they must also ask me a question about what information they need from me to calculate the mole to mole ratio of the salt to water.
Formative assessment can be a double edged sword. It can be and often is extremely helpful. Some quick short three or four well worded questions at the beginning of a unit provides information about student abilities. A teacher can skip teaching information that kids already know or the teacher can discover concepts that he or she assumed students know but do not. Formative assessment about "Moles" can provide data that is hard to deal with. Can the students handle scientific notation? How well are students at basic math skills?